Shane Lowry: I was 16 over at this stage in Firestone six years ago
American Jim Furyk took command of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday as he looked to make amends for a number of near-misses at Firestone Country Club.
Furyk carded a second consecutive 66 in Akron to finish eight under par, four shots ahead of compatriots Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson and Ireland's Shane Lowry.
The 45-year-old has recorded nine top-10 finishes in the event, including five in a row from its inception in 1999, and memorably lost a seven-hole play-off to Tiger Woods in 2001.
The world number six also squandered a one-shot lead with one hole to play in 2012, carding a double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway to lose out by a shot to Keegan Bradley.
Despite a good opening round, Furyk received some tips from his father and coach Mike on Thursday evening and told Sky Sports 4: "I think I've found a way to get the ball in the hole.
"I drove the ball better today, but I definitely hit my share of poor golf shots, just managed to put them in good spots and get up and down when I needed to. I also made a lot of birdies, I think 13 in two days, and that covers up some mistakes as well."
Lowry, 28, and Watson both matched Furyk's 66 with six birdies and two bogeys, with Johnson carding a 67 which featured four birdies and a bogey in the last six holes.
Lowry finished 77th in the 80-strong field on his debut in 1999 - the year he won the Irish Open as an amateur - and was 48th in 2013, but told Sky Sports 4: "This is one of the courses I came to when I had just turned pro and when you come back six years later I am definitely a much better player. My mental game and maturity is a lot better as well.
"At this stage in '09 I was 16 over par so it's a big difference."
First-round leader Danny Lee, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell were five off the pace on three under, Stenson carding four birdies and three bogeys in his 68 and McDowell adding a 71 to his opening 66.
"I started on the back nine and did not play very well to be honest," McDowell told Sky Sports 4. "I didn't hit many fairways and was scrambling and scrambling and hung in there incredibly well.
"I actually hit it well on the second nine but made a silly six on the second when I was 25 feet away for eagle, putted it up and it came back off the green."
Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth were among the group on two under, Spieth finishing his 68 in style with a brilliant birdie on the ninth thanks to a low, running approach from the rough to three feet.
Spieth will replace Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings with a victory on Sunday, with McIlroy dropping further hints on Friday that he would be fit to defend his US PGA title next week following the ankle injury he suffered playing football at the start of July.
Victory at Whistling Straits would make Masters and US Open champion Spieth only the third player in history after Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) to win three majors in a single season.
"To cap off an incredible year with some more magic would be really cool," the 22-year-old said. "There's a special place in the history books for players who have won three in one year - it's a really short list."
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